Makers of the first generation of connected devices — as if they already didn’t have enough to worry about — had, at the outset of their work, a crucial design decision to make: What communications system should I design into my hardware? The theory was that a new device would need to be interoperable, right out of the box, with the other devices on the market by being compatible with whatever home networking solution became the most popular.
Everyone thus believed that choosing the “wrong” networking system, the one that wasn’t the marketplace winner, would doom a product to the same sort of failure that would await a consumer software developer who chose to write exclusively for something besides Windows or the Mac.
That resulted in the sort of religious wars that are too common in technology. Z-Wave? ZigBee Smart Energy, ZigBee Home Automation? Wi-Fi? Power Line Communication? Companies have invested considerable mental bandwidth in following these debates, time that would have been better spent on what they knew best, the actual design of their product.
But that is all on the past. Now, integration happens almost effortlessly, thanks to the package of ready-made connectivity solutions known as “the cloud,” along with the growing popularity of smart smartphones. These two forces work together to make old-fashioned interoperability in the home irrelevant.
Some of the best examples of this integration in the cloud involve data. One is Zillow, which makes it easy to check on the latest real estate prices in your neighborhood. Behind the scenes, Zillow is “mashing up” disparate data from real estate listing services, assessor and tax office records and proprietary home price estimate vendors, and then overlaying the information using the familiar interface of Google Maps — including on a smartphone. The fact that the information is being piped in from many different sources is hidden from the user.
When it comes to connected devices, today’s consumer only cares about one thing: Can they can see it or control it from their smartphone? As long as they can, they could care less what low level networking protocol the device uses, just like Zillow users don’t particularly care which data vendor is supplying home prices. The cloud puts Z-Wave, ZigBee, Wi-Fi and the others on a level playing field. Any product using any of these can be controlled on the same smartphone as well as any other; a fact that in turn makes heterogeneous home networks a reality.
That’s the premise of the Green Button data initiative, an government-industry effort to allow consumers to access the data from their home power meters via the Web, either on a smartphone or a computer. Utilities taking part in the program — and already, 12 million homes are being served by it — format household power meter data according to a set of standard protocols. Any application using the Green Button APIs can then access the information, and use it to help homeowners maker smarter energy decisions.
Integration efforts like Green Button are the future of home automation. The hardware networking issues associated with the first four ISO layers used to be a manufacturer’s biggest headache; now, they scarcely need to sweat the issue. Instead, they simply have to get to the cloud in the easiest manner possible.
Which is precisely what Arrayent’s web services API can do. No matter what networking hardware you choose, we make it simple for you to get online and accessible via a smartphone. The time and energy you save can be better spent on doing what you do best: Your actual product.